This piece was stimulated by some work I was doing in the Punch Above Your Weight hands-on session last Friday to help someone develop an adwords campaign.
This person works for an organisation dedicated to business support for the over 50s and he was concerned that following the official line from the business link where you are advised to plan everything before you start is going to turn off something like 60% of the potential market because they don’t want to sit through 12 hours of stuff to get at the 30 minutes of info that they really need. (I’m wrestling with this issue all the time on my training guidelines project too.)
So what might be wrong with planning?
Well we might look at what happened to the Soviets and think a bit about how we might make use of the invisible hand.
Planning it before you start means that you think you know
What the customers want
How they want to interact with you
The truth is you don’t. On the basis of 4 new business start ups and many more product launches over 25 years I feel quite confident about that.
The Market NEVER wants what you want to sell it. It usually wants about 50% of what you think mixed up with a load of other stuff you haven’t thought of yet. And it may want things supplied in ways you never imagined.
Your task is to hold true to the spirit of your original vision while dancing a tango with the market place to allow your vision to morph into something that will work.
Let’s talk about our organic veg. business. We got into this by accident as expansion of our www.plants4presents.co.uk business meant we had to obtain some premises which involved us getting 2 acres of glasshouse more than we needed. So we’re sitting there thinking about what we can do with this asset. Growing vegetables in an unheated house seemed like a good bet but we have never done this commercially – how should we decide what to sell and what were the best processes.
So we decided to follow the money. We grew a ridiculously wide range of crops because we had no idea what people would want. Along the way we found that next critical factor after the demand was how easy was the crop to prepare. Anything that grows above the ground is ok (apart from peas which are a disaster) and anything that grows below the ground – like carrots – can be problematical.
How did we sell it? Cold calling in person followed by email for remote ordering seems the best process.
But what about the commercial terms – should we ask for 7 days, 15 days? It turns out that they expect to give you fivers out of the till when you deliver or they collect. This is why people run cash businesses – they want to get rid of the cash because the banks are going to charge them for banking it.
Should we bag the produce? If they know what they’re doing it gets in the way – it subtracts value. If they don’t know what they’re doing it’s a life saver for them.
We could have sat in a room and researched and planned for weeks without finding any of that out. Mainly because (speaking as a market researcher myself) you don’t know what questions to ask until you get in amongst it.
Learning by doing. That’s how people are – that’s what they want.
Convincing government funders of this and the need to fund training that doesn’t lead to some useless NVQ is a different story
I’ll be back